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SMU Midseason Outlook

A Season Update On One of 2019’s Most Surprising College Football Teams

James Proche has been arguably SMU’s best player this season
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking Back

Heading into this season SMU was considered to be an average team that would compete for a bowl birth in a crowded American conference. A 6-6 or 7-5 record would’ve probably been considered a success a few months ago. Sonny Dykes’ second full season at SMU has started far better than anyone ever would have thought. Having started 6-0 for the first time since the 80’s is an extraordinary accomplishment for this program. The addition of Texas transfer Shane Buechele added skill and experience at the quarterback position for this season which has been one of the huge difference makers for the Mustangs.

Through 6 games, SMU sits atop the AAC West with Tulane who is also undefeated in conference play. SMU has shown to be one of the better offenses in college football from an efficiency standpoint. SMU currently ranks 12th in the country in Total Offense which is pretty impressive considering they have played a few pretty good defenses.

SMU has done a great job to this point of maintaining a balanced offense and that will be one of their keys to success going forward. Shane Buechele currently ranks 5th in the country in passing yards falling right behind Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa in the national rankings.

Tulsa v SMU
SMU QB Shane Buechele ranks 5th in the country in passing yards through 6 games with 1,665 yards
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

SMU’s biggest win to this point was their road win at TCU obviously because it was a win against a ranked Big 12 team. The most impressive takeaway in my opinion from this SMU team though was their comeback win against Tulsa. The Tulsa game last weekend was the first time since Week 1 against Arkansas State that SMU was getting beat during the game and the Mustangs had to come from behind and win. Every other game for the most part SMU has controlled the majority of the game. Being down 21 to Tulsa at home and finding a way to win showed true resiliency from this team.

Nobody was woke on SMU until they beat TCU on the road
Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Through the first 5 games the Mustangs were white hot and cruising to victory but had not really faced a lot of adversity. It’s good that they have had to grind out a win and show some resiliency before they hit this stretch of games coming up in the second half of the season.

SMU’s defense has impressed at times this season and performed well though they will need to play better to maintain their success this season. In particular, the SMU secondary has been suspect at times this season. Through the first half of the season SMU is ranked second to last in the conference in passing defense giving up 261 yards per game on average.

Oddly enough, SMU gives up a lot of yards through the air but actually leads the AAC in interceptions so there’s obviously talent in the secondary. With a number of solid passing attacks coming up for the Mustangs, the passing defense must improve if SMU wants to win the AAC West and more this season.

SMU leads the American Athletic Conference in interceptions
Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SMU special teams needs to improve as well, obviously last week SMU gave up a TD on a s fluke play but SMU has also missed a number of extra points throughout the first 6 games among a few other special teams miscues.

The poor secondary play at times and special teams miscues have partially gone under the radar because SMU has just outpaced everybody every game so it hasn’t mattered if they give up a few more points than they probably should have.

Overall though SMU has a very solid defense that should perform throughout the rest of the season. They also currently sit tied for 3rd in the country in total sacks.

Look for James Proche and Reggie Roberson Jr. to continue their dominance at receiver for the Mustangs, both guys are over 500 receiving yards for the season at the half way point. We’ll see if Xavier Jones can end the season leading the nation in rushing TDs.

Looking Forward

SMU has a number of potentially tough AAC games left on their schedule. To make it to the conference title game they will almost certainly have to beat Memphis and Tulane assuming both of those teams continue on their same respective trajectories in the second half of the season. SMU will likely be favored in all of their remaining games except for possibly their road trip to Memphis assuming they take care of business the next 2 weeks. The rest of SMU’s schedule looks like this:

  • Week 8: vs Temple - Temple is a pretty good team and should play well when they travel to Dallas next week. Temple is 5-1 through the first 7 weeks having lost to Buffalo, who stinks out loud, but they did beat Memphis. Temple will be the toughest AAC team that SMU will have played when they meet next week.
  • Week 9: @ Houston - Just because D’Eriq King is redshirting doesn’t mean Houston isn’t a good team. Houston will still be competing to win the AAC West this season. Clayton Tune didn’t look bad against North Texas last week.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Houston at North Texas
Houston QB Clayton Tune went 16/20 passing and ran for 100 yards in his first start replacing D’Eriq King
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Week 10: @ Memphis - The road trip to Memphis will be the toughest regular season game SMU plays this season. Memphis and SMU are the two favorites at this point in the season to compete for the AAC West. Memphis’ passing attack will be the toughest SMU faces this season.
  • Week 11: vs East Carolina - SMU should smoke ECU especially at home even though the Pirates have improved this year.
  • Week 12: @ Navy - This could be a sneaky really tough game for SMU. Playing Navy in Annapolis is for some reason really hard. As of today, Navy hasn’t lost a game in Annapolis since OCT 20, 2018 when they fell to Houston. The Midshipmen are 21-4 at home dating back to the beginning of the 2015 season.
  • Week 13: vs Tulane - Tulane is the other team in the AAC West that has surprised the nation this season and should be a tough game. Luckily, SMU gets Tulane at home which should tilt the scales in favor of the Mustangs.
Tulane ends their season with their final 3 games being @Temple, vs UCF, and @SMU
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Best case scenario going forward for SMU is they win out, which they are capable of doing, win the American and make a NY6 bowl. Achieving that this early in Sonny Dykes tenure would be an unbelievable accomplishment.

Worst case scenario for the Mustangs is they drop 3 or 4 games down the stretch in the American and finish 8-4 or so which would be a disappointment after starting 6-0 but in the grand scheme of things would be a drastic leap in program success compared to the last few seasons.


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